Jakob Lesage

Kam (glottocode: kamm1249) is spoken by a community of 29 villages in Bali LGA, Taraba State, Nigeria. There are currently between 8k and 11k Kam speakers (November 2020). The name Kam is an exonym of unknown origin. Speakers call themselves ɲí ŋwɔ̀m and their language and culture àŋwɔ̀m. Most Kam people still speak Kam, especially in the more remote villages. Many parents only speak Hausa to their children, however, and most aspects of traditional culture are no longer transferred to future generations. Since Greenberg (1963), Kam has been classified as an Adamawa language, but its relationship with the languages traditionally referred to as Adamawa and other surrounding languages is yet to be clarified.

Borehole Rice farming

Traditionally, the Kam were mountain dwellers who, according to oral tradition, settled in the mountains north of the Kam River more than one thousand years ago. Kamajim, the traditional capital of the Kam country, is located at the western feet of these mountains. This is still the place where the traditional king of the Kam resides. It is off-limits to outsiders and guarded by Sarkin Dawa, the political king of the Kam, who arranges political matters and settles issues with other ethnic groups. Today, the Kam are mainly farmers and fishermen. Their most important crop is guinea corn, but rice, maize, beans and potatoes are also grown. The Kam also hunt for game. The lion is an important symbol to the Kam, and lions are said to still dwell in the mountains, as guards to the Kam traditional king. The Kam claim close association with the Jukun and the Jukun kingdom of Kororofa. The Jukun speak a distantly related language. Meek (1931) draws some parallels between Jukun and Kam traditional culture.

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Before the AdaGram project, very little research had been done on Kam. Some words were collected by Charles Meek (1931), and some more by Ulrich Kleinewillinghöfer (2015). The AdaGram project led to the first comprehensive grammatical analysis of Kam (Lesage 2020).

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Tope Olagunju and Bitrus Andrew laid the foundations for this analysis with a lexical and grammatical survey they undertook in July 2016 (Idiatov et al. 2017). From 2016 to 2020, Jakob Lesage worked with the Kam community to collect more data and natural texts which enriched and broadened the analysis. He defended his PhD thesis on June 25, 2020. Many people in the Kam community contributed to the project, all of whom are mentioned in the acknowledgements section of Lesage (2020).

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Jakob's main Kam consultants were Isa Sarkin Dawa, Babangida Audu, Rahab Garba Precious, Danjuma Bello, Garba Abubakar Bako, Muhammad Bose Yuguda, David Duwasam Mamuda, David Mark, Adamu S. Baka and Jauro Babangida Tukura. Àyí bár nyí íbārī hár nyí íbārī bár í! He was graciously hosted in Sarkin Dawa by Isa Sarkin Dawa, Jauro Babangida Tukura and Babangida Audu. In Jalingo, he was hosted by His Royal Highness Maigandi Kaigama, Mr. AD Usman, Hassan Jaae, Ibiem Abraham Msugh, Madam Ruth Paul, CAN Secretariat and the Diocese of Jalingo.

Currently, Jakob pursues his work on Kam as part of his post-doctoral documentation project funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.